How Meta is Preparing for the Philippines’ 2022 General Election

Today, we’re sharing an update on our work to help keep our community safe and protect the integrity of the upcoming Philippine General election on May 9.  

Activating Our Elections Operation Center

For some time, we have had a dedicated team focused on the election and as we get closer to May, we will activate an Elections Operation Center for this election. It will bring together subject matter experts from across the company on critical issues including misinformation, safety, human rights, cybersecurity, and others to monitor and respond to emerging risks in real time. This team includes local experts who can speak the language and who have a deep understanding of the context on the ground in the Philippines.

Tackling Hate Speech and Other Harmful Content

We use artificial intelligence technology that we’ve trained in Filipino to help us proactively detect and remove hate speech, bullying and harassment, and content that violates our violence and incitement policies.  In addition, we reduce the distribution of content that our technology identifies as likely to be violating those policies, to prevent it from spreading quickly. Following our review, if we determine that this content violates our policies, we remove it. We have content moderators who can review content in both Filipino and Cebuano – in addition to Filipinos working across the company.

Disrupting Harmful Networks

We have dedicated teams that are constantly working to find and stop coordinated campaigns that seek to target people with malicious activities on our platforms.

Recently we identified and removed a network that violated our policies against dangerous organizations. This included a network of Facebook Pages, groups and accounts maintained by the New People’s Army (NPA), a banned terrorist organization, for violating our policies prohibiting groups that have a violent mission or are engaging in violence.

As part of tackling other emerging harms, we also removed a network of over 400 accounts, Pages, and Groups in the Philippines that worked together to systematically violate our Community Standards and evade enforcement.

The people behind this activity claimed to be hacktivists and relied primarily on authentic and duplicate accounts to post and amplify content about Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, account recovery and defacing and compromising of primarily news entities’ websites in the Philippines. 

As with any major civic event, we’ve also seen Inauthentic Behaviour operators from various countries become active on the margins of the upcoming Philippines elections.  Here are some of the notable insights:

  • Context switching: We’ve removed several clusters of activity that switched the focus of their Pages and Groups to the elections to increase their following. One Page that mainly shared non-political dance videos renamed itself to become “Bongbong Marcos news,” while another Page that started off as supporting a politician later changed its name to “Your Financial Answer” and began posting loan advice. 
  • Deceptive efforts to pose as authentic communities: We removed multiple clusters of activity from Vietnam, Thailand, and the US that posed as members of local communities in the Philippines in an apparent attempt to monetize people’s attention on the election. In February, we identified a cluster of Pages operated by spammers in Vietnam who used VPNs to make it look like they are based in the Philippines. They posed as supporters of political campaigns or local news entities and used names like Philippines Trending News, Duterte Live, Related to Francis Leo Marcos, and Pinas News. They claimed to share live footage while purporting to be local news sources on the ground in an attempt to drive people to their clickbait websites filled with ads.
  • Inauthentic engagement: In the lead-up to the elections, we’ve taken down about a dozen clusters of activity focused on fake engagement. We identified several efforts to post at high, spam-like rates to drive people to particular Pages or off-platform websites. In one case, a social media management agency used a network of over 700 accounts to post and share both political and entertainment content. In other cases, we found and removed inauthentic engagement activity run by the same people in support of multiple candidates in the same election at once. 

Combating Misinformation

We remove misinformation where it is likely to put people at risk for imminent physical harm. We also remove content that is likely to keep normal political processes from functioning such as content intended to suppress voting, as well as certain highly deceptive manipulated media. 

For content which does not violate our policies, independent third-party fact-checking partners in the Philippines — AFP, Rappler, and Vera Files — review and rate the accuracy of such content and provide additional context. We provided funding support to help them increase their capacity to promote reliable information in the lead up to the elections. All our fact-checking partners are certified by the nonpartisan International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and review content in English andFilipino.

When a fact-checker rates a piece of content as false, we reduce its distribution, notify people who share the content — or who have previously shared it — that the information is false or misleading, and we add a warning label that links to the fact-checker’s article disproving the claim. We are also adding these labels to fact-checked content that appears in Messenger in the Philippines in the coming weeks. For Pages, groups, profiles, websites and Instagram accounts that repeatedly share content rated False or Altered, we will reduce the distribution of everything they post,  remove them and their posts from the recommendations we show people, and their ability to monetise and advertise on our platforms.

We also launched the Philippine Fact-Checker Incubator program with Internews to support capacity-building for fact checking in the Philippines.  Participating organizations are encouraged to become IFCN certified to help bolster the fact checking industry in the Philippines. Their fact-checks can be found here.

To help Filipinos easily find credible voter registration information, we launched a pop up notification on Facebook feed last year. It  generated over 10 million clicks and led people to more information on how and where to register in COMELEC’s official partners’ websites: Vote Pilipinas and Magparehistro ka!. According to COMELEC, they received 1.9 million new registrants during the run of the campaign – more than double the daily average of registrations received before the campaign. We will also launch voting day reminders in people’s Facebook feeds in the Philippines. 

Stronger Protections for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders

Together with the  International Center for Journalists and the Border Center for Journalists and Bloggers, we rolled out a free digital security and safety program to help journalists and human rights defenders protect their digital assets and counter online harassment. Meta’s Journalist Safety Hub centralizes all resources and tools available on our platforms.

We have made several updates to our Community Standards, including expanding protections for public figures such as journalists and human rights defenders. We now remove more types of harmful content such as claims about sexual activity, comparisons to animals and attacks through negative physical descriptions. Our policies now also provide stronger protections against gender-based harassment for everyone, including public figures.

Last year we launched new policies against mass harassment and brigading, and we now remove coordinated efforts of mass harassment that target individuals at heightened risk of offline harm. This includes attacks against dissidents — even if the content on its own wouldn’t violate our policies. We also remove state-linked and adversarial networks of accounts, Pages and Groups that work together to harass or try to silence people. These efforts and updates to policies are informed by our independent Human Rights Impact Assessment Report on the Philippines published in 2021.

Supporting Digital Literacy and Promoting Civic Engagement

  • In partnership with COMELEC and the Legal Network on Truthful Elections (LENTE), we launched the civic education campaign Be Wais and Teka Moment, in November last year, which reached over 36 million people. The campaign reminded people to pause and think critically before sharing information online. These videos will soon be aired on national TV and broadcast on radio in the Philippines.
  • We’ve expanded our flagship digital literacy program, Digital Tayo to reach over 6.5 million people in the Philippines. Digital Tayo covers topics such as online safety, privacy, digital citizenship, news and media literacy, and launching civic campaigns. We also launched the Youth Leaders Incubator Program in partnership with Out of the Box Media Literacy and Mano Amiga to encourage youth participation through voter engagement advocacy campaigns. 
  • We are supporting the voter education podcast series, “Shading Someone on your Ballot”, in partnership with Podcast Network Asia and LENTE. The podcast highlights the importance of voting, facts about the electoral process, and equips listeners with voting information resources. 
  • We also  launched Meta’s Philippines Elections Hub to provide resources on how candidates can maximize Facebook and Instagram tools for online campaigns, use ads transparency tools, and prepare for political and social issue ads authorizations.
  • Meta together with COMELEC conducted capacity building training for political parties and candidates on Meta’s Community Standards, ads transparency, online safety and resilience for female candidates, to better address gender-based harassment. 

Improving the Transparency of Political Advertising

We want people to know who is behind the ads they see on our apps, so they can make informed decisions at polling day. 

Advertisers in the Philippines are now required to complete our ad authorizations process and include “Paid for by” disclaimers on ads about elections, politics, and certain categories of social issues. Last month, we began requiring anyone running ads about certain categories of social issues in the Philippines to get authorized and show the organization or person who is running the ad with disclaimers. 

Ads about social issues, elections or politics that run in the Philippines will also appear in the Ads Library so that everyone can see what ads are running, who saw them and how much was spent. This fully searchable archive stores these ads for seven years.

Our work to help protect the integrity of the upcoming Philippine election builds on our longstanding efforts in understanding and addressing how social media is used in the Philippines and will continue in the lead up to, during, and after the vote.

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